NEW YORK — Kmart Corp.’s exit from Chapter 11 Tuesday proved it can clean up its balance sheet, but the rebuilding of a retail franchise may take more time.

Even after the completion of its 16-month tour of duty in bankruptcy court, many remained unconvinced that the Troy, Mich.-based discounter, now 600 units lighter than in January 2002, can gain a permanent foothold. Doubts center on its lack of a solid focus or market niche. Many believe the retailer is exiting bankruptcy too soon, before it has had a chance to fully fix the problems that led to its filing.

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